Series Preview: Cubs at Giants, May 20-22, 2016
The Chicago Cubs have played thirteen total series this season, and they’ve won all but three. The three they lost have come against the Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers – “bad teams.”
Just because the second sentence is true, the first sentence isn’t any less awesome. Seasons are long, player results are fickle, wins are hard to come by. The Cubs don’t need to change a thing.
And hey, they are still on pace to win 116 games …
We’re Going Streaking
… But I won’t sugar coat the entire thing; in their last ten contests, the Cubs (28-11) are just 5-5, and were *this* close to losing the middle game of the Brewers series, too (Russell’s one out, ground-out RBI saved the game in ninth inning, and it took a bases loaded walk to a relief pitcher to win it). Maybe there’s some “playing up/down to their opponents” issues going on, but those things make mostly me shrug. If you do subscribe to that line of thinking, though, you’ll be happy to know that 10 of the next 13 games come against the Giants, Cardinals and Dodgers, all of which are good teams. Woo hoo!
Speaking of the Giants (25-18), they too have gotten off to a good start in 2016 and are riding an eight-game winning streak. Seven of those eight wins, though, came against the Diamondbacks and Padres, after they lost three out of four to the Blue Jays. The other series losses for the Giants this season have come against the Mets and the Dodgers. So, then, maybe they have the opposite problem of the Cubs; they only lose to good teams? Which would you prefer?
#Perspective #KeyboardDrop (it’s like a mic drop for bloggers).
Game Times and Broadcasts
- Friday, May 20 at 9:15 CT on CSN, 670 The Score
- Saturday, May 21 at 6:15 CT on WGN, 670 The Score
- Sunday, May 22 at 7:05 CT on Fox, 670 The Score
Expected Starters and Lineups
These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what actually gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.
- Jake Arrieta (1.29 ERA, 2.62 FIP, 3.05 xFIP; 3.06 K/BB)
- Jon Lester (1.88 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 3.22 xFIP; 4.25 K/BB)
- Kyle Hendricks (3.51 ERA, 2.73 FIP; 2.98 xFIP; 4.11 K/BB)
- Dexter Fowler, CF
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Kris Bryant, LF
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Ben Zobrist, 2B
- Javy Baez, 3B (Jorge Soler and Tommy La Stella also get in by way of this slot)
- Addison Russell, SS
- Miguel Montero, C
San Francisco Giants
- Jake Peavy (7.43 ERA, 4.77 FIP, 4.70 xFIP; 2.40 K/BB)
- Matt Cain (5.87 ERA, 4.49 FIP, 4.60 xFIP; 3.00 K/BB)
- Madison Bumgarner (2.45 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 3.36 xFIP; 3.94 K/BB)
- Denard Span, CF
- Joe Panik, 2B
- Matt Duffy, 3B
- Buster Posey, C
- Brandon Belt, 1B
- Hunter Pence, RF
- Brandon Crawford, SS
- Angel Pagan, LF
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Chicago Cubs – Pitching
The Cubs have their top two pitchers going in games one and two, with pretty favorable match-ups against them. Jake Arrieta had a big bounce-back game against Pittsburgh last week, after lasting just 5.0 innings against the Nationals the time before that. (Bounce backs for Arrieta are relative.)
In his last start, Arrieta made it 8.0 innings, giving up just 3 hits and 2 earned runs on the strength of 11 strikeouts and just two walks. The two walks in eight innings is what is most important, though, because before that, Arrieta had given up 14 walks in his previous 26 innings. I think it’s safe to say that Arrieta is clearly a *good* pitcher now, but everyone has that one thing that could derail them for a short time and for Arrieta, it’s his command.
On Sunday, though, Kyle Hendricks takes the mound after a so-so start in Milwaukee. Following his pattern, Hendricks was solid the first two times through the order, but got tagged for three runs on a walk, two singles, and double in the sixth inning. For the season, Hendricks continues to be great against batters the first (.608 OPS) and second (.462 OPS) time through the order, but gets hit much too hard the third (.712 OPS) and fourth (2.000 OPS) time through.
C’est la vie.
Chicago Cubs – Offense
Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Addison Russell have all taken their turns being hot and productive on offense this season, but let’s give a little more love to Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist, who just looks so good at the plate right now. Since the off-day on May 12, Zobrist has slashed .429/.538/.571 with a 19.2% walk rate and just an 11.5% strikeout rate. He is doing everything right, and is an extraordinarily tough out with an exceptional eye. I said this at the beginning of the season, but the whole “versatility” thing really covers over just how good this guy has been at the plate for a good long while.
On the flip side, early season hero Dexter Fowler has been slightly colder over that same stretch (.231/.333/.423). He’s still got a 10.0% walk rate and just a 20.0% strikeout rate, though, and yesterday, he hit his first home run since April 18. Lastly, it’s funny how much not a thing this has become, but since the beginning of May, Javy Baez has a mere 15.9% strikeout rate in almost 50 plate appearances. He hasn’t been hitting too well in that stretch, but that just seemed noteworthy (and indicative of good things in the future).
San Francisco Giants – Pitching
In the first two games of the series, the Cubs should have a real advantage. Jake Peavy goes today and he has not been too great in 2016 (this is exactly what I said about the Brewers series, though …). That said, his last time out against the Diamondbacks was his best outing of the year (6 IP, 1ER, 3H, 2BB, 5Ks), so let’s wait and see how he looks tonight.
Of course, in game three the Cubs get Madison Bumgarner who has been the Madison Bumgarner of pitchers this year (wait, that didn’t work). His 2.45 ERA on the season is impressive (13th best among qualifiers) as is his 28.7% strikeout rate (11th best among qualifiers). Last time out, Bumgarner threw an absolute gem against the Padres, lasting nine innings while giving up just one earned run (a solo HR) and five hits against no walks and eleven strikeouts. When he gets rolling, he’s as tough as they come.
San Francisco Giants – Offense
Perhaps surprisingly (given the other talent on the team), Brandon Belt has been the Giants’ most productive hitter so far this season, and comes into today’s game with an 18.4% walk rate (16.1% strikeout rate) and a .390 wOBA. He’s slashing .295/.425/.482 overall in 2016, but he has cooled considerably over his last ten games (.188/.333/.250).
Hunter Pence follows a similar pattern, being very good for the season .297/.385/.490, but slightly cooler (although still quite good) over his last ten games (.282/.349/.462). And hey, you didn’t hear this from me, but I hear Hunter Pence loves purple “grape” flavored candy (what a weirdo).
Plan of Attack v. Giants
- It’ll be important to take advantage of the favorable match-ups in the first two games of the series. With Hendricks on Sunday against a dangerous Giants’ lineup and Bumgarner on the mound, the chances of winning the series might rely heavily on both of the first two games.
- Which brings us to the second point: try to limit the bullpen use on Friday and Sunday (i.e. give Arrieta and Lester a long leash). Hendricks will need help come the third time through the order, and the bullpen was already heavily taxed in Tuesday’s extra inning game.
- Don’t be afraid to attack early in games. The Giants’ pitching staff has the third lowest BB/9 in baseball, so the Cubs might have to be more aggressive than we’ve come to expect. If they hope to do a lot of damage, they’ll have to do it themselves.